The days of revival
     have long been around.
But even with all that,
     can the faithful be found?
A message of judgment
     we’d rather not hear.
Tell us the good news
     and leave out the fear.
But good news is lacking
     if we don’t tell the bad.
Our rescue from dying,
     is what makes us glad.

 For if there’s no judgment,
     when Christ I reject.
Then there is no reason,
     my life to inspect.
The good news of Jesus,
     calls me to believe.
The wages of my sin,
     I don’t have to receive.
And while it’s a free gift,
     it is up to me.
For I must accept it
     if I want to be free. 

John was sent early
     to prepare the way.
To call for repentance,
     and do it today.
While some liked the idea
     of escaping God’s wrath.
They were quite startled,
     they were on the wrong path.
Some came to see him,
     thinking that they were good.
They had to look closer
     and then do what they should. 

The one who had plenty
     was to share what he had.
Those collecting taxes
     should not treat people bad.
The ones with position
     should not falsely accuse.
Be content with their pay,
     not spreading bad news.
With someone like John
     teaching that which was right.
The people suspected
     that the Christ was in sight. 

John quickly answered,
     “The Messiah, I’m not.”
But the One that is coming
     has more power than I’ve got.
He is much greater
     than one such as I.
The thongs of His sandals,
     I’m not fit to untie.
He will immerse you
     in His Spirit and fire.
For that which is impure,
     the consequence is dire. 

So what will we do
     with the message we hear?
Will we praise God with joy
     or tremble in fear?
The choice seems so simple,
     at least it should be.
When my heart is repentant,
     He will forgive me.
And when I’m forgiven,
     by faith I should live.
The good news of Jesus,
     to all I must give.

I’ve been spending time with God this afternoon in the beginning of Luke 3 as I prepare for tonight’s sermon.  As I was listening to God for refinement of the sermon, He put this poem in my mind.  I pray that it encourages and challenges you and that it brings glory to His name.
In prayer,

The Act of APPEAL (Acts 25)

“If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
Acts 25:11

As we near the end of the book, I have to say it has been a joy to preach through the book of Acts!  It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply.  As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid.  Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.

Paul continues his journey toward Rome in Acts 25 as he appeals to Caesar regarding the charges the Jewish leaders continue to bring against  him.  I think there are at least two reasons that Paul does this — one, it protects his life from the attempts on it by the Jewish leaders and two, it allows him to continue the mission God had revealed to him regarding being a witness to the Gentiles and to those in authority.  As we continue to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us, there are some lessons we need to learn regarding the Act of APPEAL. 

  • Accept:  For the Act of APPEAL to function well, it is important that both sides of the appeal Accept — no matter how unlikely it may seem to them — that they may be wrong!  Paul was very clear in his act of appeal that he was willing to accept even the death penalty if he was wrong about his innocence.  Many times we make no progress in our relationships with one another even when an appeal is made because we refuse to accept any responsibility.  .  When we are engaged in the Act of APPEAL, we must make sure we are willing to Accept the outcome that is from God. 
  • Present:  The Act of APPEAL also requires us to Present our case.  Many times this is the part that we like — we get to “tell it like it is”.  The difficulty is wrapped around the need for the appeal to be presented in a balanced and fair way.  When before the Roman officials, Paul was careful to not only present his appeal from his perspective but to also point out the specific areas of disagreement with his accusers.  We generally like to present all of the good from our side of an appeal but we’re not too likely to willingly present a full picture of what is going on.  We can usually present our case when it comes to our rights and desires but we often fall short in presenting when it comes to the greatest appeal of all — the appeal for people to come to salvation through Jesus!  It is important that we practice and become good at presenting the case for Christ as we appeal to people everywhere to be saved.  We are able to grow in the Act of APPEAL when we practice our ability to Present the reason for the hope that is within us.
  • Ponder:  One of the huge roadblocks in the Act of APPEAL is the failure to Ponder both what we present and the response that is given.  It seems clear that Paul had given great thought to his appeal.  There was a reason behind that was bigger than what most would see as the intended outcome.  One of the big problems with this element of appeal is that it takes time.  We’re too busy.  We already know everything so why delay the inevitable?  I’m sure you have heard, or used, those or one of many other excuses for not taking the time to think.  Many times it is this act of ponder that helps us to see things more clearly, or even to see the perspective that someone else has that we hadn’t thought of.  When it comes to living out the Act of APPEAL, we would do well to stop and Ponder the bigger picture — to try to see things more clearly from God’s perspective.
  • Examine:  As we consider the Act of APPEAL, the act of ponder ought to lead us down a path where we Examine what God says.  Too often we take the easy route and make, or hear, an appeal based on human wisdom and reasoning rather than on what God says.  Paul was always diligent in  his defense of the gospel to examine the word of God and connect his appeal to what God had said.  Often our appeals with one another go nowhere because our minds are made up according to what we like, know, and believe rather than on the foundation of God’s Word.  When we spend time examining God’s Word, we are better prepared to give an effective answer for the hope that is within us.  The Act of APPEAL will only be as strong as the effort you put into the act of Examine as you discover what God says.
  • Acknowledge:  The Act of APPEAL requires that you Acknowledge the authority of someone else.  Sometimes it is a positional authority and sometimes it is a relational authority.  Either way, an appeal is made because you don’t have the authority to command a change.  Paul made an appeal to Caesar because he was not in a position to make demands of him.  He also would appeal to fellow believers, even when reminding them that he had authority as an apostle, because he viewed them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Many times we don’t appeal to one another to make changes we would like to see because we think we can demand those changes.  We need to get rid of our control mindset and constantly acknowledge that God is the authority we all must answer to.  When living the Act of APPEAL, it is important to Acknowledge that God is the final authority, not you.
  • Listen:  Most times the Act of APPEAL that is made by us, or to us, breaks down because one or both parties are not willing to Listen.  Paul’s appeal to Caesar worked because he had listened to his accusers and to the Roman officials.  More importantly, it worked because he had listened to God.  Listening is the key that starts each of the elements of APPEAL that we’ve already looked at.  When Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, it is the listening that allows us to do so with gentleness and respect!  Our appeals to one another within the church family often fail because we are not willing to actually listen to one another.  It is no wonder we are often ineffective in our appeal to the people around us to be saved, if in fact we are making that appeal, because we are likely not listening to them either!  Not only do we not listen well to one another, we would much rather give our opinion that listen to God for what He has already said about the issues we face.  An effective Act of APPEAL requires that we take the time to really Listen to each other and to God.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of APPEAL?  Do you Accept that you could actually be wrong?  Do you understand the hope that is in you well enough to Present it accurately to others?  Do you spend time with God specifically to Ponder an issue or circumstance?  Does your pondering lead you to Examine the scripture to see what God has said?  Do you regularly Acknowledge that you are not the final authority in your life or in the lives of others?  Are you committed to take the time and effort necessary to Listen to one another as you listen to God?  I pray that your involvement in the Act of APPEAL will boldly show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!

The Act of SAVE (Acts 9)

It is a joy to preach through the book of Acts!  It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply.  As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid.  Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.

As we arrive in Acts 9 in our sermon series, we find Saul on his way to Damascus with the intent of persecuting and taking prisoner all who followed the way of Jesus.  As he went, he had an encounter with Jesus and through Him experienced the Act of SAVE!  Let’s look at some lessons we can learn from the example of the early church and Saul’s conversion.

  • Sight:  Saul began his journey with his sight set on wreaking havoc in the lives of any Christians he found.  In order to experience the act of save, his sight needed to be changed.  God focused Saul’s sight off of his traditions, trainings, and triumphs and onto Jesus!  As Paul, Saul would later write that he had the best of all of this from man’s perspective but none of it had the ability to save him.  When we begin to think we can be saved by holding onto our own traditions, trainings, or triumphs, we too need to have our sight adjusted by God!  For us to experience the act of save, we must see God for who He is and realize the only way to be saved is through His son, Jesus.  For us to be involved in taking the act of save to others, we must see them as God see them — loved and in need of God’s great mercy and grace, just as you and I are.  When God calls you to grow in the Act of SAVE, recognize that to do so will require an adjustment in your sight.
  • Accept:  So, what happens when God brings about a disruption in your sight?  You are left with a choice — accept the change of sight God offers, or reject it.  The act of save requires that we accept Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to God except through Him!  Saul had to accept that his way of seeing things wasn’t accurate and that the instructions given to him by Jesus were to be followed.  When we are obedient to God’s call to share the act of save with others, we too must accept that God has the power and desire to bring change to their life!  Ananias appears to have had doubts about sharing the gospel of Jesus with Saul but did accept the command of Jesus to do so.  It was through the obedience of Ananias that Saul is able to accept the message and be baptized into Jesus Christ!  Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is vital to the Act of Save in your life and learning to accept the power of God to change people is a vital quality to help you grow in the Act of SAVE.
  • Vision: While this may seem similar to the first point, the sight we need adjusted is ours but the vision we must take on is God’s!  Our sight needs adjusted to accurately view what we see but our vision needs adjusted to accurately view what we cannot see!  My good friend David often says, “God can use anyone He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants”, or something like that at least.  To both experience and share the act of save, we must have the vision of that statement for ourself and for the people God calls us to take the message of Jesus to.  When Ananias expressed his concern to God about Saul, God revealed to him the vision He had for what Saul would become.  Saul, as Paul, would later write that “we walk by faith and not by sight”.  He understood the act of save propelled him beyond what was seen and into accomplishing what only God could see possible.    When we are growing in the Act of SAVE, we live with growing amazement that comes from exchanging our inabilities and short-sightedness for the ability and vision of the living God.
  • Escape: Part of what makes the good news of the act of save such good news is the escape from the deserved punishment of sin.  In the past, many people would come to experience the act of save in order to escape the eternal punishment of hell.  While our current culture seems to often steer away from preaching and teaching about the reality of eternal separation from God as a result of sin, the escape from that punishment is just as real as ever for those who are saved.  But we sell the act of save short if we don’t realize a broader, and current, escape that we can experience on a day-to-day basis — an escape from the power of sin and death!  The act of save in Saul’s life not only brought escape to him from the punishment of sin, it also brought an escape to the lives of the Christians in Damascus from the sin he intended to inflict upon them.  It was through this escape that we read the church enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.  When we spend time sharing the Act of SAVE with openness and fullness to all people, we proclaim an escape from the power of sin and death in life and in eternity.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of SAVE?  Do you look to God for needed Sight adjustments?  Do you Accept the payment Jesus made to save you from your sin and accept He has the power and desire to save all who call upon Him?  Are you willing to see God’s Vision for your purpose in His kingdom as well as the purpose of others?  Will you enjoy and celebrate the Escape God offers from the power of sin and death?  I pray that the act of SAVE expressed through your life will boldly show the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!

The Act of WAIT (Acts 1)

I’m preaching a sermon series through the book of Acts for the Sunday evening worship gathering at the church I attend.  The plan is to take a chapter-by-chapter look at what act God would be calling us to take as we learn to apply His Word to our life.  Tonight’s sermon took a look at Acts 1 and asked, “What do I do when God calls me to wait?”.

Waiting can be an important part of life if we embrace the usefulness that God has in it for us.  It was this time of waiting in Acts 1 that God uses to change the disciples from the scared, run away from trouble, group of men at the arrest and trial of Jesus to the bold, confident preachers of Acts 2!  So, what can we learn from them about what to do when God says, “Wait”?

  • Worship:  Central to our being able to learn from having to wait is our ability to worship God and connect to Him as our God.  Worship is simply using our time to acknowledge and express to God his worth.  While we often associate worship with singing and music, it ought to be much bigger and broader than just that.  As they gathered to wait, the disciples of Jesus expressed their worship through constant prayer.  Sometimes God calls us to wait because we need to strengthen our connection with Him and learn to truly worship Him before He can do the work through us that He desires.
  • Accept:  Having to wait also gives us the time necessary to accept what was, or what has happened, in the past and be able to look forward to changes God may require.  The disciples needed time to accept that Jesus really had resurrected from the dead then ascended into heaven.  I wonder how long they would have stayed staring into the sky if God had not sent the two messengers to tell them Jesus had ascended into heaven and would return in the future.  It was through the accepting of the return of Jesus to heaven that they would be open to God immersing them in His Spirit.  Often God calls us to wait because there are things we need to deal with and accept before He can do the work in us that He desires.
  • Inspect:  Waiting also gives us an opportunity to inspect God’s Word and see how our actions stack up against it.  As the disciples inspected scripture during their time of waiting, it helped them to understand why Judas had acted the way he  did and also pointed out their need to select someone to take his place as an apostle.  Inspecting is a powerful tool to refine and improve the way we do life if we use God’s Word as our inspection standard.  Many times God calls us to wait because there are areas of our life that we need to inspect with the magnifying glass of God’s Word before He can fully mold us into His image.
  • Train:  Many times we are not ready for what is next and God has us wait so we can complete the necessary training.  As the book of Acts opens, the disciples have been given their assignment, the same assignment that you and I have been given — “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)  The command was given yet they were still told to wait — they still needed training, in their case immersion in the Holy Spirit, before God could accomplish His intended work through them.  God often calls us to wait because there is training that He needs to do in us before He can accomplish His intended work in and through us.

If you’re like me, you don’t like to wait.  I pray that when you consider what God did in the lives of the disciples as He called them to wait, you would embrace the act of waiting when God wants to use it to accomplish amazing things in your life!

What Do You WANT?

How many times are you asked the seemingly simple question, “What do you want?”, and struggle to come up with an answer?  I know I do often and for various reasons.  Sometimes the question seems to come out of the blue and I’m not really sure what I want.  Other times, the question seems to be more of a rhetorical question — asked by a person, or in a setting, that has shown over time that what I want isn’t really all that important to them.  Then there are times that what I want seems so outlandish, unreasonable, even impossible, that to say it out loud may well set me up for ridicule and even failure — it’s not worth the risk to reply.  Sometimes the answer is watered down because I settle with giving a compromised answer instead of the real answer to what I want.

I should probably preface this article with the statement that I don’t believe life is all about what I want.  🙂  “What do you want?” is only a good question when it and it’s answer flow fully from the will of God discovered through His Word and His Spirit as they live and work in your life.

Jesus asked that very question, “What do you want?”, several times and I think we can learn much from an interchange that takes place between he and a man named Bartimaeus.  Let’s look at what he got and what he could have settled for.

Then they came to Jericho.  As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

As I look at this text, and life, I see four ways that we could answer the question, “What do you want?”.  Unfortunately, we often settle for one of the first three instead of living with the honesty and faith that was shown by Bartimaeus.

The first way that we often hear the question is “What do you Wish?“.  When we hear this way, our response is often either very hesitant or very flippant.  We’ve not seriously thought about what we want so our answers revolve around wishful thinking and dreams.  The problem isn’t that the answer to this question is always wrong — the problem lies more in our attitude toward it.  When we view what we want as just wishful thinking, we are too easily discouraged and give up.  Bartimaeus had to step up beyond the “what do you wish” to overcome those who wanted him to just be quiet.  Are you living with the “what do you wants” of your life simply as wishes that you give up on because others persuade you it will never happen?

Somewhat related, or at least often a by-product, of “what do you wish”, is “What do you Accept?“.  This often comes after a heavy dose of realism and disappointment.  We examine what we really want and what we really believe is possible and come up with a compromise answer of what we will accept.  What we really want hasn’t happened, sounds so unlikely, or has been turned down so often, that we downgrade what we want and settle for what we will accept.  Bartimaeus was determined to continue a pursuit of what he wanted regardless of how much pressure there may have been to accept less.  After all, he had been heard . . . surely he raised awareness among the crowd of the plight of the blind . . . wasnt’ that enough?  Is your life empty of the “what do you wants” because you’ve been convinced to settle for what you will accept?

Particularly for the realist or pragmatic person, the question, “What do you want”, is often at least mentally substituted with, “What do you Need?“.  This takes the “what do you accept” to a basic level.  Sometimes to want anything beyond the basic needs are seen, and taught, as selfish and even un-spiritual so we settle for what we need in spite of what we really want.  Because begging and receiving alms was the basic means of survival for many first-century people with disabilities, Bartimaeus could have easily settled for a pay-off.  There was a crowd that wanted him quiet.  A crowd that was perhaps uncomfortable with him in their midst.  If he wasn’t so set in what he really wanted, he could have easily changed attention to his immediate needs and perhaps gained the means to survive financially for a few more weeks at least.  Have your eyes become so downcast in regards to what you want that you have begun to settle for another’s version of what you need?

If these other substitutes for the question, “What do you want?”, are empty and unsatisfying, what would be a good view of it?  In considering Bartimaeus and the teachings of Jesus, I believe we give the best response when we hear the question, “What do you want? “, as, “What do you Treasure?“!  That is often the reason we settle for what we Wish, Accept, or Need, because we haven’t learned what we really Treasure.  Bartimaeus was bold enough to pursue Jesus through all opposition in order to state to Jesus, “what I really treasure is my sight!”.  Jesus responds that this man’s faith has restored his sight — not faith in what seeing could do for him, faith that Jesus could, and would, make it happen.  Jesus states that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.  Could it be that you and I don’t pursue, or receive, what we want because we’ve settled for less or because what we treasure is not always the things of God?

I pray that you and I would hear Jesus ask us, “What do you want?”. 

I pray that our response would move beyond what we wish, accept, or need so that we can receive the great treasure of life eternal and the treasure of abundant life that Jesus wants us to have now.

You see, when our hope and faith is in Jesus Christ and we go for what we treasure, we also get what we wish, what we accept, and what we need!